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Air Force tasks USS Safeguard to recover F-16

By Senior Airman C. Todd Lopez

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan (April 20, 2001) -- The USS Safeguard, based at Fleet Activities Sasebo, Japan, is leaving for northern Japan. The ship is expected to arrive in Hachinohe port today.

The U.S. Navy ship, tasked by request from the U.S. Air Force, is coming to northern Japan to conduct recovery operations on the F-16 aircraft that crashed April 3 into the Pacific Ocean near Ripsaw Range. Ripsaw Range, a joint-use training range, is located approximately 12 miles north of Misawa.

Initial recovery plans for F-16 wreckage include items off the critical component recovery list. The list, compiled by the Air Force, includes such items as the engine, the flight/data recorders, the ejection seats, and the external stores. The list will be updated as needed. More of the wreckage may eventually be recovered.

Before operations begin, salvage crews and Air Force officials will collect data concerning the exact coordinates of the F-16 crash, make plans to ensure a clean recovery with little environmental impact and annotate the location of fishing nets and other marine obstacles in the area to ensure minimal damage to local fishing equipment.

Additional considerations include operations in the shallow water near the recovery site. Shallow water in the recovery area may prevent the USS Safeguard from mooring over some of the items. A lightweight dive system will be onboard the ship for use in this instance. The LWDS will be operated from one of ship's 35-foot workboats to facilitate recovery efforts away from the ship.